Body, Soul, Spirit
–By Ben Gilmore
“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ saith the Lord: …” [Isaiah 1:18] John Locke pointed to “reason” as a gift of God to humans. God seems to enjoy dealing in three’s: solid, liquid, gas; Father, Son, Holy-Spirit; a stool needs 3 legs to stand; air, land, sea; father, mother, child; flesh, bone, blood; …
Let us reason together, about “body, soul, spirit.” Each of us, you and I, have them. What are they? Of what are they composed? How is each unique from the other two?
FIRST – A disclaimer. What follows is my personal “reasoning” – not a paraphrase of someone’s Bible exposition. God said, “Let us reason together.” OK – Use it or lose it!
Body – That is the easy one. Our body is an amazing machine. It is composed of only a few dollars’ worth of chemicals that form flesh, bone, and blood into a structure of solid, liquid and gas. The flesh is composed of many different tissues. Some, like brain tissue reproduce very slowly. Others, like stomach lining reproduce rapidly. Some tissues form muscles, others form tubing.
Our body has thousands of miles of tubing. These veins carry fuel and oxygen to all the cells of our body, several trillion of them! Each of these cells contains a little “stove” called a kreb cycle. This complex chemical function combines oxygen and nutrients to produce heat energy and leave carbon dioxide and waste. Then you lie down, tired and weary, then awake in the morning, refreshed – It is because all those little “kreb stoves” have been hard at work making energy.
But – are we our bodies? No – our body is only our “space suit” as we hurtle through space on our “space ship” – Earth. Eventually, it will wear out and turn back into a few dollars’ worth of chemicals.
Spirit – This also seems clear to me. “You take God out of anything, and it dies”. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” [Genesis 2:7] I speculate that “Spirit” is the essence of life. When it (God) is in something, it is alive. When it departs, what remains is dead. A dead body is just “stuff” – No life (Spirit). In like manner, I can see the difference between live and dead animals, trees, etc. Caution – I am not speaking of pan-theism. Humans have a unique place in God’s creation.
Soul – Took a while to gel in my reasoning. In the 70‘s I had an invitation to teach for a week in Scotland. To prepare, I collected every verse that held “spirit” or “soul”. Perhaps others have done this and reached a conclusion, but I failed to discover the difference in Scripture.
In Bible word study I have found that the first and last usage of a word are often most significant. The first, Genesis2:7 (quoted above), seems to include all three – body, soul, and spirit. The last, Revelation 18:14, “And the [worldly] fruits that thy soul lusted after …” show that the “soul” can make choices.
In between the first and last are hundreds of times “soul” is used. I count 131 “soul” words in Psalms alone. In Psalms, David seems to boss his soul around. It would be an interesting study to note the number of things that can be done to one’s soul: cast down [Ps 42:5], redeemed [49:15], thirst [57:1], wait upon God [62:5], we chasten with fasting [69:10], souls can bless the Lord [103:1], my soul is in my hand [119:109].
Summary – My body is just my “space suit.” It cannot make choices. It is only temporary. My body is NOT me. Without me, my body is an empty suit!
Combine body and Spirit and the body is alive – but – without “me” it is still an empty suit. The Spirit gives life, but according to Gen 2:7 the 3rd part, “soul” is missing, to make a man into a “living soul.”
So – Neither body, nor the spirit, are “me.” What makes this 3rd part different from the alive empty suit? My choices!
It appears to me that the sum total of every single choice I have ever made defines my soul. I am fully responsible, and answerable, for the choices I have made with the free will God has given me. Some choices (“Do you want fries with that?”) are less significant than others (“Humble yourself and pray.”) If you call that the definition of my “soul”, then it is an easy thing to understand God’s justice at the “Judgment Seat.” Praise God for offered grace!!!
The condition and future of our soul rests squarely upon our respective shoulders.
I suggest learning the Biblical conditions for God’s grace!